Fermenting with wild things….


I have been making my own version of Kim Chee, as well as yogurt, for the last few years. Yogurt is quick and easy and I make it every other week, whereas kim chee takes a bit of time and effort. I started out making several versions to begin with, until I found a basic combination I like. It’s made from green and red cabbage (one head each usually), a red onion, a couple carrots, and an apple or two. I cut the cabbage and onion by hand because I like it finely shredded, and I have a stainless steel hand grater that I shred the rest with.

It all goes into a big plastic bowl with salty water added; 4 tbs. salt dissolved in 4 cups of water. I mix it all by hand, squeezing and mashing it together. Then it gets covered with a towel and left for a few hours or overnight. In the morning I mix in a little juicy mash made with finely chopped garlic cloves, shredded ginger, paprika, cayenne, and a little liquid from my yogurt.

This last year I began adding a few kale leaves to each batch and experimenting with small amounts of other greens and roots. Horseradish leaves are nice, and when I have them so are miners lettuce and dead nettle. Not enough to radically change the flavor though.

Lately I have also added fresh stinging nettle leaves, although I need to come up with a new method of mixing it in. This first time I did it, I mixed it all with my bare hands as usual. What was I thinking!! Owie! Since then I have done the mixing with a big wooden spoon, but that is very unsatisfying. There is something therapeutic about mashing it all together with my hands, so next time I will just mix the nettles in last with a wooden spoon. Fermenting obviously takes the sting out, because I never had a problem eating it, I’m happy to say!

The last batch I made I used grated yacon and Jerusalem artichoke root. That worked well.

After a few days of bubbling away in quart jars on a tray in the kitchen the mix turns a lovely shade of pink, thanks to the red cabbage. Right from the beginning it tastes yummy – but mostly just a little salty. A few days of fermenting – depending on the warmth of the kitchen – gives it a lovely lemony tang.  I taste it every day until it hits the “just right” place and then put the lids on and store it in the frig. That’s it! A really simple process.

There are so many different things you can add to make it to your own taste – different seeds and flavorings, and of course different mixes of veggies. You might try making small batches to begin with using different combinations of veggies, fruits and herbs until you find one you love.

I tend to use it as a “seasoning” more than anything. I pile it on any sort of sandwich, on rice cakes with hummus, on eggs in any form, on salads (it takes the place of dressing) and sprinkled on a baked potato (white or sweet). It’s wonderful to liven up an avocado. I eat it every day on something.

A couple quarts will last me several weeks so even though it took a couple hours to collect and chop and mix and jar up – it doesn’t need to be done all that often. I’d say it’s really time well spent. My gut is very happy I did it!


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